In order for a transformation to work, leadership must take ownership of the results. This includes a personal commitment to higher quality and continuous improvement. The right culture will not emerge if leaders are not on board. You may have heard about having a social contract between executives and team members when the culture is to be changed. What this means is that the executive team voices a commitment to supporting the transformation and to acting as a servant leader to help guide and support teams through the difficult journey.
Many executives want to implement Agile because they have heard that it will enable them to deliver faster, but they don’t bother to understand what their role is in this initiative or fully internalize that adopting Agile methodologies may not necessarily mean delivering a full solution faster. Delivering incremental value to your customers is how Agile can help teams. So, when teams adopt Agile and consider proper steps to build in quality, often providing time estimates for incremental delivery that are not aligned with what leaders had in mind, conflicts and tension may arise. This leads to an unhealthy working environment and is a recipe for confusion and frustration in the organization.
To implement any change, the leadership team needs to focus on the “why,” especially if the change involves the entire organization at all levels. Once they internalize why it is important to make the shift and are willing to have a social contract with their teams, it removes unnecessary emotions and allows for all functions to align and deliver against a common vision. The issue in many cases is that we jump right into the how and what and try to implement new processes without knowing why!
Here are some key characteristics of successful transformational leaders:
- Communicate clearly with all levels of their organization to ensure the rationale for change is understood
- Always present and don’t hide in their offices
- Show their commitment by example and by changing how they behave
- Continuously reinforce change and take the time to listen to concerns
- Open to constructive feedback
- Live and believe in the cause
Nader-Rezvani, N. (2019). An Executive’s Guide to Software Quality in an Agile Organization. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4842-3751-9
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